January 26, 2009

The Bicycles

Remember The Bicycles? A couple of years back the Toronto quartet (back then a five-piece) dropped their mix of bubblegum pop and garage rock on us for the first time, with their successful debut album The good the bad and the cuddly. Now they're back with another collection of short, energetic and strongly varied pieces of pop with their second album Oh no, it's love on Fuzzy Logic. On the one hand this variation might mean you won't like every song style as much as the other, but on the other hand you certainly won't be bored and even with the less favourite tracks you'll have to admit the songcraft is admirably strong and catchy.

If I very critically pick through the album I still end up with two big handfuls of hugely contagious moments of indie power pop brilliance where vocal harmonies compete with the strong and varied instrumentation for the biggest applause.

The Bicycles website
The Bicycles myspace
Fuzzy Logic Recordings

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Bicycles - Oh no, it's love
2. The Bicycles - Won't she be surprised

January 25, 2009

Knight School

In their interview of a couple of weeks ago The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart tipped Brooklyn threepiece Knight School as one of the new bands to watch. Were they right?

This month Knight School have their debut album The poor and needy need to party out on Lostmusic Records.

This is distorted indiepop of the deliberately lo-fi variant that seems to be making a glorious comeback lately, supported by much praised releases by for example Crystal Stilts and caUSE co-MOTION. And yes, The POBPAH were right indeed. Knight School's music fits right in with the quality and sound of the aforementioned bands, adding their own brand of hooks and pop charm, almost casually skinnydipping in a pool of golden melodies. 14 passionate blasts of pop in 24 minutes; no second thoughts, no looking back. And why would you, if you know it's right?

Looking on the band's myspace for information you'll only find this:
K N I G H T S C H O O L i s t R A D! ! ! ! !

It's enough because it's true.

Knight School myspace
Listen to the album at last.fm
Lostmusic Records

Download (Right click, save as)
1. Knight School - Pregnant again

January 22, 2009

Daydreaming about sleeping

There's only one word to describe the state I've been in this week: zombie. I haven't slept a wink. And indeed, my mind is on the blink. I sat down tonight for a long post about God (don't ask), but instead I ended up staring at my screen for five minutes, quite blankly. I'll take the easy way out now, and try again after some weeks of sleep.

Here's some music to keep you awake.

Download (Mediafire)
1. Dum Dum Girls - Don't talk to me
2. Hot Lava - Apple+Option+Fire
3. Second-Hand Furniture - That's where he blew your head off

January 20, 2009

Interview: Hari and Aino

Hari and Aino are a pop quintet from Stockholm, Sweden. We first heard of them in the Summer of 2007, when they released their twinkling debut single Your heartache and mine on Cloudberry Records. Since then there's been a near perfect self-titled album on Plastilina Records in 2008, and a new Cloudberry 7" is out right now. This Spring Hari and Aino will take their pretty music on tour around Europe. I thought this would be a good moment to ask Hari and Aino's Kristoffer Rengfors a little bit more about the band.

Hello Kristoffer! Let me ask you the most obvious question first. There are obviously five of you. Why did you choose the somewhat confusing name Hari And Aino?

Kristoffer: Sometimes it´s best to just let things be what they are. There might be five of us, but we are still Hari and Aino, no matter how confusing it might seem to the outside world. A name might have a meaning for someone, but sometimes it´s just a name. And sometimes one band has two names. And sometimes two names are one name of five people playing music together. It´s really not that complicated.

Can you give us a short history of the band? How did you all meet, and why did you decide to make music together? Have you been in other bands before?

Kristoffer: Most of us have known each other since we were teenagers, or even younger. We have all been in bands before, some of us have been in bands together. Hari and Aino started out from the scraps of a broken up band that never worked out, and never produced anything good. In came Andrea and made it possible for us to write the songs we had always wanted, but never hade the possibility to write without a voice like hers.

Your name sounds a bit Japanese, your album was released on a Peruvian label, your singles on an American label, and you wrote a song about Finland. I guess you're quite internationally oriented! But what can you tell us about home? Do you like living in Stockholm? Do you feel part of some sort of pop community there?

Kristoffer: I guess we know a lot of people who consider themselves to be a part of the Indie scene in Stockholm. But Hari and Aino has never really been apart of that group of 'indie' people in Sweden where everybody seems to know everybody. And there is no real desire to belong to that group either. There´s probably more people outside Sweden who listen to our music and that´s fine. Why care about what goes on in small frozen Nordic country when there is a whole world out there?

Despite some meloncholy lyrics, your music is the kind that lifts you up and makes you smile. It's bright and warm, breezy pop music. How do you write your songs? Is there something that makes a song a Hari and Aino song?

Kristoffer: We usually write songs based on melodies. It almost always starts with a melody or some chords on a guitar and then we build the songs together during rehearsals. It´s a very collective process and requires participation from the entire band. Probably what makes a good Hari and Aino song is what makes any pop song good, a good solid foundation decorated with something that makes you stop and listen.

What kind of music did you grow up with? Do you have a song or album that immedeately brings you back to your youth when you hear it?

Kristoffer: One common artist that seems to pop up for many of us is Alice Cooper. School´s out is one of those songs that really takes us back. Pontus, who plays keyboards and guitars always wanted to be Marie Fredriksson from Roxette. So if he hears June afternoon he thinks it´s 1995 again and he turns 12 again. A band that always reminds you of the first times you picked up a guitar is Nirvana, mainly because their songs were easy enough to learn by yourself.

One of your songs is called Buy an island. What would you bring with you to that island if you had to live there, alone, for a year?

Kristoffer: We would of course bring the rest of the band and all of a sudden we wouldn't be alone anymore. Even though I would imagine that we would kill each other before the year was over if all we had was each other.

What do you do when you're not playing with the band?

Kristoffer: Work work work. Sadly this is not a full time thing. We´d all love for it to be, but it just isn't. If we didn't´t have to work we´d be out there playing every day.

You're playing in the Netherlands next month. If you have time for an evening in Amsterdam, come say hello! You're also playing shows in Spain, Germany, England and Wales. Is this your first international tour? Nervous?

Kristoffer: What are you saying? You are not coming to see us play when we come to The Netherlands? Nervous about touring? No not nervous, but excited. It´s going to be great to do some shows outside Sweden, we´ve come in contact with to so many people all over the world through this band so it´s going to be nice to finally meet some of them. We are really excited about this.

Your second Cloudberry single is finished and about to be released. What's coming up next? What are your plans for 2009?

Kristoffer: We are recording new songs right now. So our plan for 2009 is probably to first of all play a lot of live shows this spring, then finish some more recordings and release them. If it´s a new album, some singles, an EP or how our next releases will be is not clear yet. Making full albums doesn´t seem that important anymore, but then again who doesn´t like a good album. We like to record only 3-4 songs in one session and then work with them for a while, so who knows if we even sound alike the next time we go into the studio?

Thanks Kristoffer. I might be there in Gouda, actually, if the trains will take me back to Amsterdam that late. Enjoy your European tour!

Hari and Aino myspace
Cloudberry Records
Plastilina Records

Download (Right click, save as)
1. Hari and Aino - Second song
2. Hari and Aino - Your heartache and mine
3. Hari and Aino - Seasons
4. Hari and Aino - A considerate kind of home

January 18, 2009

Undercover poplover, part 9

"Till that time has come
That we might live as one
Can I dance with you?"

Download (Mediafire)
1. Nixon & Action Biker - Maneater
2. Evan Dando - Knowing me, knowing you
3. Les Calamités - With a boy like you

January 16, 2009

A new Love

As an appetizer for the new album Stick it, to be released later this year, Elefant Records has released a limited edition Helen Love 7" called Calm down dad. It'll be on nice orange vinyl, for those of us who like that kind of thing. You can have a listen to all three new songs on the website. It's the usual fast-beat bubblegum punk-pop, but also as usual that's quite a good thing.

I included two classic Helen Love songs for those few of you who are not yet familiar with their unique bouncy sound.

Helen Love website
Buy the single on Elefant

Download (Mediafire)
1. Helen Love - Does your heart go boooooooom
2. Helen Love - Atomic beat boy

January 13, 2009

Interview: The Manhattan Love Suicides

There was no escaping The Manhattan Love Suicides in 2008. Not that you should want to, of course. After 2006's self titled debut, a series of wonderful 7-inches and radio sessions culminated in the 27 song filler-free collection Burnt Out Landscapes, released on their own Squirrel Records. The Leeds quartet operate in the beautiful fuzzy field between gloom and joy. Thick layers of hypnotic distortion don't hide how energetic and catchy these songs are; neither does the band's dark punk rock aura prevent them from warming the heart of pop fans across the world. This is outrageously addictive music.

Hello Manhattan Love Suicides! Can you give as a short history of the band so far?

All: Simple. We got together in 2006, recorded an album within a couple of months of forming, and we’ve just continued to record and release stuff ever since.

You are often associated with the indiepop scene, which probably has got to do with the labels you released some of your singles and your album on and the fact that you write one catchy popsong after the other. Still, both your roots and music are definitely more punk than twee. When you started making music together, did you decide on a direction, or was this just the sound that came out?

Darren: We do write catchy pop songs, there’s no point in us trying to deny that. But we’re definitely not a nice indie pop band. I suppose when we got together the sound we made was always going to turn out the way it has simply because of the main influences we shared. However, if you listen to that first album you’ll hear some ideas in a few of those tracks that we haven’t really repeated since. A track like (The Guy On The) 14th Floor is a good example of this. We were going for a Cramps style guitar part in that song with lyrics heavily influenced by The Soft Boys and Syd Barrett. A track like Providence features ideas that we haven’t returned to as yet either. That whole first album is the sound of a band trying to find an identity and just throwing various ideas into the mix to see what works.

Caroline: As Darren says, there was no defined sound that we wanted to go with. We have shared influences which we bring to the band and they are obvious to any listener. However, each of us as individuals also brings in something from other bands or artists we favour. This can lead to tracks which are not what would be termed "typical" in comparison to our usual output. The song The 10th Victim, for instance, is a bit of a departure from our usual pop approach.

Adam: We didn’t start out with any set plan, we shared a love for a certain aesthetic and the music was born from that. For a while the band was just me, Darren and Caroline and as we didn’t have a drummer we just wrote songs and recorded them without playing live. Magic Marker stumbled across our MySpace page and liked the songs enough to want to put an album out. It was then that music critics and bloggers began inevitably applying the tags, which has probably been a blessing and a curse in equal amounts.

Rachel: There was a strong direction when I joined that seemed to occupy most of the principles that I wanted to be part of, just simple things like not needing to be that good at an instrument to get a good song out of it. It’s more about the feel of the band and what we stand for and that we like what we’re doing.

Leather jackets, cigarettes, dark sunglasses, serious faces, black clothes, guns and rifles on your album covers... a tough image! Are you tough? Can mothers let their teenage daughters go see The Manhattan Love Suicides without having to lie awake at night, worrying?

Darren: We’re serious, but we’re not really tough. Not in the traditional sense of the word anyway. I think the mothers of teenage daughters should maybe worry that they’ll return home from one of our gigs with damaged hearing, but that’s all. The clothing and the sunglasses are just what we all wear every day of the week. We like the rough and raw imagery we use on record sleeves and in the promo videos too. We’re big exploitation movie fans and we like the idea of throwing that stuff up into the record racks, plus it’s good to mix graphic imagery with noisy pop songs. It’s exciting.

Caroline: I don’t think I’m too tough, just direct. Out of all the band members, I suspect Rachel is the toughest as I’ve seen the way she hits the drums. As for teenage girls, I don’t recall ever seeing any at one of our gigs. They can come if they like, but their parents will probably appreciate us more than they do because it might remind them of some of the bands they loved in their youth.

Adam: I’m trying to quit smoking at the moment.

Rachel: We just like being a bit provocative because we’re adverse to slipping into that overly comfortable 'IKEA' lifestyle. We’d just like to give people a little hope that there’s something other than that, and if you’re in a band you don’t have to be sponsored by Shockwaves. Radio 1 and the NME are appalling at the moment, and I think there are more bands than people realize who aren’t dying to be part of all that.

What kind of music did you listen to yourselves as teenagers? When and how did you discover the bands that influenced the MLS-sound?

Darren: I was a big Guns N’ Roses fan when I was a kid, then I moved on to Public Enemy and eventually ended up loving bands such as Sonic Youth and The Jesus And Mary Chain. By the time I was 16 years old, The Velvet Underground had pretty much taken over my turntable, and all the bands I discovered from there have shaped my way of thinking ever since.

Caroline: As a teenager I was listening to a bit of Nirvana, Hole, that type of thing. I grew up in a house where The Doors and The Velvet Underground were often played, so I wasn’t even able to "discover" these bands for myself as many others do.

Adam: I was listening to bands like Ash and the Manic Street Preachers, following the NME like a lot of teenagers, until I was turned on to Guided By Voices, Pavement and The Mountain Goats (...et cetera) by the guy who worked at the local record store. It was then that I fell in love with music properly and especially the lo-fi diy bedroom recording aspect of it. Whilst I love hearing new music, it didn’t take long to realize the importance of going backwards too...

Rachel: Yeah, the Manics are definitely in there for me too, although I was 7 when Richey Edwards went missing, but he still played a massive part in my early teenage years, as did 70’s punk/garage rock. My sister got me into Ash and Idlewild, then I discovered The Pixies, and without realizing it I’d got into Sonic Youth, Pavement, Mercury Rev, Weezer, Radiohead and The Moldy Peaches. When I was 14/15 I didn’t have any money, or I spent it on booze, so I started listening to my dad’s old records; Bob Dylan, The Stones, The Monks - Bad Habits... that was good. The record sleeve was a nun smoking and drinking with stockings on - bad habits. Then whatever I could get my hands on... but unfortunately more often than not, that was uninspiring. I really got back into music when I moved to Leeds.

How do you usually put your songs together? Are you a group of individual songwriters, or a songwriting team?

Darren: Very simple. Sometimes I write a song, sometimes Adam comes up with a song, sometimes Caroline has the lyrics and we write the music around that, and sometimes we put songs together from just throwing a few ideas around collectively.

Caroline: We write songs as individuals, and together. Often, we set ourselves a task of writing a song on the same day as we plan to record. This has happened with alarming regularity.

Adam: Yeah, we write as a group and also individually. I write songs for various musical projects I’m involved in. The ones that end up sounding like Manhattan Love Suicides songs get used for The Manhattan Love Suicides. The typical band set up of who plays/does what is far more loose than it would appear, which gives us plenty of dynamic scope.

Rachel: Putting too much structure to stuff would cause problems so we just get on with it.

You’ve been an extremely prolific band so far. Do you ever get writer’s block? What do you do to get inspired?

Darren: We like to record often, and we like to record quickly. Get a song recorded almost as soon as it is written, when it’s at its freshest.

Caroline: If I’m stuck for ideas I will probably watch a good movie. With a movie you can pick up on a theme and run along with that, whereas if I listen to songs I will just try to write a song that copies what I’ve just listened to.

Adam: I think as we write individually as well as together, there is a constant unspoken competitive element that keeps us all on our toes.

Rachel: I think just hanging out and playing together helps a lot.

For such a prolific band, your live shows are extremely short and selective. You could play ten shows and never play a song twice. Why the hit and run gigs?

Darren: With a band like ours, any longer than twenty minutes would lose the impact. It may sound really shitty to say this and I can only speak for myself here, but I’m not out to win anybody over and have people come up to us to say how much fun they had at one of our gigs. A Manhattan Love Suicides gig is supposed to be like a smack in the face. We get on the stage, we play six or seven songs as loud as we can and we get off. If you like it, if you find it exhilarating then that’s great, but if you don’t like it then fair enough. Go and listen to something else instead. It’s the total opposite approach to any band that goes out of its way to impress an audience and does everything except get down on its knees and beg for acceptance and appreciation.

Caroline: The intention was always to create a big wall of noise and fuzz. We couldn’t do that with the necessary impact if we played on for much longer than we do. We have written many songs which have never been performed live, and some which we have played more than I can count. We know what works for us and we try to stick to our guns.

Rachel: I don’t think we need to be on stage for longer. We get our point across.

Do you have a favourite moment in your short history so far, a story that will make it into the big MLS biography that will be written in many years? And while we’re at it, who should write that biography?

Darren: I think the highlight so far for me was SXSW in 2007. Not that our performances there were all that great actually, but the whole experience was fantastic. Playing New York is always really good as well. The Manhattan Love Suicides biography? Should be written by Abel Ferrara the film director.

Caroline: It’s difficult to pinpoint a favourite moment of mine – maybe it’s yet to come. When the biography is written we’ll have to go back in time as I think J.D. Salinger would do a good job. His stories were compelling even though they weren’t action packed. I’d like to think he could sum up The Manhattan Love Suicides in that way.

Adam: Peter Hughes in the audience at our SXSW show was quite a special moment for me (I think he was just there to see Tullycraft, but he was still there). And meeting Lily Allen. We once had an email from Kramer asking if we wanted to go and record with him too which we all got very excited about for a while. If we can go back in time then it would be fun to have Hunter S. Thompson along on tour, but not to write the biography, I’d want Alfred Jarry to do that.

Rachel: I’d like it to be done by the guys who do the Preacher comic books. My favourite moments are always traveling.

The Manhattan Love Suicides are also a series of short films from 1985 by Richard Kern: Stray Dogs, Woman at the Wheel, Thrust In Me and I Hate You Now. All good song titles, actually! Did you love these movies, or was it just the name that sounded right? Richard Kern also directed music videos, for (among others) Sonic Youth and Marilyn Manson. Do you know if he’s aware of you? It would seem nice if he could direct one of your videos as well! Who does make your videos?

Darren: I don’t think Richard Kern is aware of us, but then again I don’t know. I’m not sure what he’d think of the music if he heard it. Probably not industrial enough for his tastes judging from some of the music he put into his short films. He’s definitely an acquired taste. I love the rough and raw grittiness of his films, the DIY element. It’s inspirational as it shows you that if you’ve got a cheap camera, a few good ideas and some like minded people, you can make a grubby little movie.

Caroline: Well, if Richard Kern is aware of us, he hasn’t been inspired to contact us. We’d gladly accept any offer from him to direct a video – if only he can agree to waive his fee.

Adam: Come on, Kern.

Rachel: A friend of ours makes the videos now, he seems to get it spot on and understands any ideas we throw at him. A fan of ours who we know pretty well now came along to a show and made a video for Head Over Heels recently. We like it when different people get involved in various ways, whoever they are. It would be great if Kern wanted to be involved, but I agree with Darren... I don’t think he’d like us enough.

You run your own label, Squirrel Records. What makes you want to release a song or album?

Darren: A very simple philosophy – if we like it, we’ll release it. We get lots of demos sent to us, mostly really bad ones to be honest. But once in a while something comes through that ticks all the right boxes for us. Which is usually loud, rough sounding stuff that hasn’t been put together with too much polish. It’s hard to explain, but we just know when a band is coming at what they do from what we personally consider to be the right angles.

Caroline: If I listen to a song and want to play it again after it’s finished, then that is good enough for me and for Squirrel.

It’s hard to keep count of your own releases. At this rate soon there’ll be enough material for a Burnt Out Landscapes part 2. What can we expect in 2009?

Darren: Well, first up we’re issuing the debut album on CD on Squirrel Records, as up to now it’s only been available on vinyl in the UK and Europe. This release will have a bunch of bonus tracks on it, plus hopefully a DVD featuring around 9 promo videos. Then, we’ll be releasing the second album a little later in the year, and more than likely another handful of singles too.

Caroline: More songs of course. We’re doing a spot of recording in a few days.

Adam: We’ll just keep doing what we’ve been doing, with emphasis on putting a new album together. Squirrel will also be releasing my solo material which is very nice of them.

Rachel: We don’t really have a plan. We just deal with things as they come. We’re supporting Crystal Stilts so that’s exciting.

More songs is always good. Please, keep it coming. Thanks for the interview!

The Manhattan Love Suicides myspace
Squirrel Records
Magic Marker Records
Lostmusic Records
Cloudberry Records

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Manhattan Love Suicides - Jonny boy
2. The Manhattan Love Suicides - Head over heels

January 12, 2009

Winter in the city

I try to push in my earphones a bit deeper with my gloved hands while Nana Grizol is playing:

"Circles 'round the moon,
is this why city lights feel so awful?
It should be unlawful
to live where you can't see the stars."

As I get on my bike at Centraal Station and start biking home, I suddenly realise it won't be long anymore. I pass the frozen canals and the 16th or 17th century houses. In the Haarlemmerstraat I look up at some of the stepped gables. From the bridge over the Prinsengracht there's a view on the Westertoren in the distance, bathing in the last bit of red light from the dawning sun. An old lady is sitting on the bridge, playing the accordion despite the freezing cold. I keep biking. I ring my bell for a group of tourists, too drunk or too stoned to really notice me. A man curses and I smile. I've lived in this city for 12 years now. It's time to move on.

I'll miss Amsterdam more than I want to admit right now.

Download (Mediafire)
1. Pants Yell! - The city life
2. Nana Grizol - Cirlces 'round the moon
3. The Best Wishes - The best sort of wishes

January 11, 2009

Hari And Aino and Vivian Girls in the Netherlands

The second weekend of February is going to be a good one for us Dutch popfans, for a change. First, on Friday February 6 Hari And Aino will play at the Twee: A Tiny Spring festival in Gouda, along with The Cuties and others in So What. The next day Vivian Girls will play at Rotown in Rotterdam, followed a day later by a show in Paradiso in Amsterdam.

That's all, you say?

Yes. Yes that's all. But it's much more than we've had in a long long time.

January 09, 2009

Hang the DJ

It's been quite a few years since I was a DJ. When I say "I was a DJ" of course I mean: sometimes I, a total amateur, tried to get some people dancing at a party. Like most people spinning the records at such occasions I had a love/hate relationship with my self-imposed responsibility to get the evening going. Frustration about the (lack of) taste and knowledge of the people attending always mixed with an absolutely unique feeling of excitement and happiness when the whole room was jumping to 'your' songs.

When I recently heard Dent May's foot-stomper You can't force a dance party for the first time, I had to smile. I'm glad I don't have to worry about such things anymore. At the same time, I can't help but feel nostalgic about a time when such things were worth worrying about. To be honest, I think I would still love doing this, once a year. Because that feeling... I've never been able to recreate that any other way.

And if for no other reason, then to prove that you can actually dance to the sound of a ukelele.

Download (Mediafire)
1. Dent May & His Magnificent Ukulele - You can't force a dance party

January 08, 2009

Interview: The Just Joans

The Just Joans are a Scottish folk/indiepop band. A couple of years ago they released an album, Last tango in Motherwell, on Ivan Lendil Music. It was only through last year's lovely WeePOP! EPs Virgin lips and Hey boy... you're oh so sensitive! that I really started to know and appreciate the band, a sixpiece nowadays. With sweet melodies sung with even sweeter Scottish accents, dark humor and stories about love and small town teenage angst... how could I possibly not pay attention? Frontman David Pope gives us the chance to get to know the band a little bit better.

Hello David! The Just Joans have been around for over 10 years. How come we didn’t know about you until quite recently? What’s the story of The Just Joans so far?

In theory the band has been around for about ten years but for the 1st eight of those years it only really existed in my desperate imagination. I suppose the band only really became a reality about two years ago when I recorded some stuff and began playing some gigs with Chris, our guitarist. Over the next few years Doog, Katie, Rowan and Fraser all joined and suddenly we were a real band. Sadly, the band was far more successful and got more groupies when it was just a figment of my imagination. Sigh.

A lot of your songs are sad tales told with a sense of humor. On your myspace you list among your influences: unrequited love, nostalgia and waning potential. It seems bittersweet is your favourite flavour. Now, with two sold-out EPs, you’re officially a successful indiepop band! Does this mean we will hear a happier Just Joans in the future?

We are a deeply unhappy group of people with broken hearts full to the brim with sad songs! Despite the surprising but welcome interest in the band, it is unlikely that we will cheer up and write any happy songs. Don't know if people really want to hear happy songs anyway. I wouldn't want to hear some guy or girl singin' about a successful relationship. That's just boastin' to music!

What do we do now? tells us about the inevitable passing of time and what it does to us and the world around us:

"What do we do now?
Now we're ten years older
The bands we loved are dead
The bands we loved are dead
I'll always think of you whenever I smell cider
But it won't be the same, again"

How are these lyrics true for you, zooming in on just the musical aspects? Has the music you play, the music you like and the scene you feel part of changed a lot? Do you feel nostalgic about these things that stayed behind in the past?

It's funny how when you're younger, the bands you like seem to be a way of telling the world that "I am young and your world is mine!", then when you're a bit older the very same bands tie you to the past and tell the world that you are actually just an ex-britpopper whose youth and potential has faded. A bit like Bette Davis singin' on the beach at the end of Whatever happened to Baby Jane.

What do we do now? borrows a big part of its melody from Sleeper’s What do I do now? and you’ve covered The Cure’s Pictures of you. Was this the kind of music you were listening to when you were younger? What were other favourites or influences?

Influences... The Smiths, The Magnetic Fields, The Kinks, Belle and Sebastian, The Hector Collectors, 60's girl groups et cetera. All the usual suspects really. Oh and our drummer, Rowan, loves U2.

Hey boy... you’re oh so sensitive is a funny but heartbreaking tale of a stereotypical indiepop boy trying (but failing) to impress a girl. This reminded me of a discussion I read on an online forum a while ago about these stereotypical likes and loves of indiepop fans. Where do you think these come from? Are these somehow implicitly connected to liking the music? Of course I’m also curious: are these lyrics a result of personal experience?

Yeah, is funny how loads of indiekids seem to have similar taste in films and books and stuff. Do we like these things cos we're indiekids and feel like we should, or are we indiekids cos we like these things in the 1st place? It's the eternal question, what came 1st? The chicken or the indiekid? I dunno, I suspect that ultimately we are just peacocks clad in cardigans and showing off our ploomage of obscure records and French new wave films in the hope that it will attract a mate. I know I am, subtitles are boring!

You played at last year’s Indietracks festival. Did you manage to see some other bands as well? How did you enjoy your own performance?

Indietracks was great. We can't thank the organisers enough for allowing us to play. It has been one of the highlights of being in the band. We met loads of lovely people and saw some really great bands. Particularly The Bobby McGee's, Mexican Kids At Home, The Good-Natured and The Smittens.

What’s coming up next for The Just Joans?

We have a new EP coming out on Valentines Day this year. It's gonna be called Love and other hideous accidents. We were thinkin' of calling it 6.9 Love songs, cos it has quite a Magnetic Fieldsy feel. Is all songs of lost love and heartache... but there are a few disco bangers on it too! Apart from that tho we don't have many plans. Except for perhaps listening to obscure records, watching French new wave films and trying to attract a suitable mate. Sigh.

Thanks David, good luck with that!

The Just Joans myspace
WeePOP! Records
Ivan Landil Music

Download (right click, save as)
1. The Just Joans - Hey boy... you're oh so sensitive!
2. The Just Joans - Bellshill Station

January 07, 2009

I would have liked you anyway

Olov Antonsson talking about John Sebastian yesterday suddenly gave me a strong urge to listen to The Lovin' Spoonful. I hardly do that enough. Daydream, Summer in the city, Do you believe in magic... they're the kind of classics I'll never tire of.

The cover of You didn't have to be so nice has always been my favourite Sportique song, and Coconut grove named one of the most promising artists of 2008. There's no need to make that link to indiepop here as an excuse for this post though; these originals are just lovely.

I'm looking forward to hearing a Cocoanut Groove-cover of Coconut grove one day!

Apparently, The Lovin' Spoonful are still going. Without John Sebastian and guitarist Zal Yanovsky I doubt we want to take this incarnation very seriously though.

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Lovin' Spoonful - Coconut grove
2. The Lovin' Spoonful - You didn't have to be so nice

January 06, 2009

Interview: Cocoanut Groove

What would it sound like if Tim Hardin or Nick Drake had written some songs for The Left Banke and Love? Well... it would sound nothing like Cocoanut Groove, probably. Still, those are the easiest references to get a first idea of what Olov Antonsson’s music sounds like. We were introduced to his addictive baroque nostalgia on one of the finest 7-inches of the year, The End of the Summer on Bookbinder Road, released on Phonic Kidnapping Records. His album Madeleine Street, finally released on Fridlyst last month, is even better. Who is this talented Swede?

Hello Olov! You started making recordings as Cocoanut Groove in the summer of 2007. Musically, what did you do before that?

Hi! I’ve been involved in two other bands in the past: The Tidy Ups and Everyday Mistakes. I played guitar in both those groups. Cocoanut Groove is the first musical project where I sing, write the songs and get to decide everything!

The album has finally been released, after continuous delays since April. Are you relieved now it’s finally out there? What caused the delay?

Yes, I’m very glad that it is finally released. I am very proud of the songs on Madeleine Street. It was delayed mostly because of incompetence at the pressing plant.

Cocoanut Grove is probably best known as a neighbourhood in Miami, Florida. I also found the name as a reference to various American nightclubs, one of which even with that extra ‘o’ in there. It’s also a song. Possibly all of this is completely unrelated. How and why did you choose this name?

I took the name from the song with the same name on the Roger Nichols-album. It’s a John Sebastian song originally.

For some reason, 'Olov Antonsson' didn’t seem like a great name for an aspiring international pop act! I liked the song Cocoanut Grove, and I just thought CG sounded like a nice name for a band – a bit exotic and tropical, and at the same time naïve, and cheerful almost. I was listening to a lot of sunshine pop and 60’s psych pop at the time when I chose the name and I thought it sounded like the kind of a name that a great 1960’s west coast group could have had!

You are Cocoanut Groove, alone. Still there’s the Cocoanut Group that plays on the album and joins you at shows. Is it your own preference to officially remain a solo artist? If so, why?

Yes, it’s sort of my own choice. I’ve been in bands before, as I mentioned earlier, and it’s a great thing to play in a band, but with Cocoanut Groove, I just feel like I want to be able to decide everything for once, and work with different people at different times, and vary between solo gigs and big orchestral gigs.

The songs are very personal to me, and I would not want other people interfering too much with them. However, I am very, very grateful to everyone who is or has been involved in one way or another, I simply couldn’t do it without them.

I see on your myspace you play bass, piano, harpsichord, organ, guitars, percussion, harmonica, et cetera. It seems you don’t even need a band! When did you discover you had any talent in making music?

Oh, I’m really not that great at any instrument to be honest, and I like to use as many other musicians as possible when I record, but sometimes it’s just more convenient to play the damn thing yourself!

I always used to have problems writing songs, and I could never finish a song, until maybe two years ago. I’m still not a really prolific writer, but it is a bit easier for me to write songs nowadays than it used to be. You pick up these little tricks here and there I guess.

What kind of music did you grow up with?

I didn’t really listen to much music as a child, and wasn’t really interested in music until the age of 11, 12, when my older sister introduced me to britpop and 60's music like The Beatles. From then on I’ve always been strangely drawn to 60's music. When I got a few years older I started listening to Bob Dylan, who was very important to me when I was 14, 15, 16, as were The Smiths. When I was about 17 I started playing in The Tidy Ups, and was introduced to quite a lot of indie pop.

In Shadow you sing "He seems a little bit familiar / He seems a little bit like someone I know". Those words can be taken out of context and used to describe the feeling I had when I first heard your music. But I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. Who would you consider your biggest influences or inspirations?

Lets see… Lennon/McCartney, The Zombies' Odessey and oracle, Simon and Garfunkel, The Beach Boys' Pet Sounds, The Clientele, and Love's Forever Changes are my main musical influences and inspirations I guess. I love those artists and records, and I think you can hear that in my songs too.

I’ve also always been inspired by (and not seldom envious of!) friends who make music – Mattias Malm from Everyday Mistakes, Peter Möller from Crime Time, Jenny Westerlund from Déjà Vu Experience/Patience Worth and Calle Thoor from Bolywool to name a few.

Most Swedish pop nowadays seems to draw from other sources for inspiration, like Sarah Records or classic Motown, including the other two bands I know from your city Umeå: your own The Tidy Ups and Funday Mornings. Maybe Jens Lekman and Pelle Carlberg share some of the bitter sweetness in your songs, but you're quite alone on the sunshine pop front. Do you feel part of any scene or pop community?

I sort of feel connected to groups like Everyday Mistakes, Bolywool, The Autumn Apples and Kont because they are all good friends and most of them have recorded in the same studio in Umeå as I have. But other than those groups, not really.

The first time I heard you was on the Indietracks 2008 compilation CD. In the end your actual performance on the festival was cancelled. What happened? Do you think there’s a chance you’ll play the 2009 edition?

It didn’t happen because of financial reasons… We waited too long to book the tickets, and they became too expensive. I really wanted to play though, and I would love to play next year.

What else is coming up in 2009?

I am writing new songs at the moment. Once I’m happy with them I will try to record them with a little help from friends. Then, hopefully some label will want to release a new album later on. I’m also trying to learn to play the mandolin at the moment, and I just got a new wristwatch, so I hope to be more on time in 2009.

Thanks Olov. Have a brilliant year!

Cocoanut Groove website
Cocoanut Groove myspace
Buy the album on Fridlyst
Buy the 7" on Phonic Kidnapping Records

Download (Mediafire)
1. Cocoanut Groove - The end of the summer on Bookbinder Road

January 05, 2009

Undercover poplover, part 8

"Rise up this morning
Smiled with the rising sun
Three little birds
Pitch by my doorstep
Singin sweet songs
Of melodies pure and true"

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Postmarks - Three little birds
2. Bart & Friends - Hounds of love
3. Three Peeps (Rose Melberg) - Mr. Spaceman

January 03, 2009

Interview: The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart

We first heard of The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart in 2007, they continued to steal our hearts in 2008 and now they seem ready to conquer the world in 2009. This month the New York quartet will release their highly anticipated debut album. Keywords: joy, passion, enthusiasm and positive noise. The world can surely use some more of that. Kip Berman (guitar, vocals) and Peggy Wang (keyboards, vocals) talked with me about brilliant moments past and yet to come.

It’s been quite a year for the band! How will you remember 2008?

Kip: Yeah, 2008 was super fun! I think seeing moshpits in London (twice!), meeting Stephen Pastel in Glasgow along with so many of our pop heroes and just making lots of new friends is the highlight for me. That's the real thrill - getting to say hello to the people that made the music I grew up with and found inspirational. Plus, meeting true fans of indiepop all over the world was great. When I was 17 and on the Belle & Sebastian Sinister mailing list, I never really got to meet the people who loved the kinds of music I loved, and now I know other people with home-made Cat's Miaow t-shirts and Heavenly posters in their bedroom.

Peggy: Joining the band really changed my life. I'm re-embracing my youth. I think of it as maybe how my senior year of high school would have been if I had like, gotten to go to the state championships or something? So yeah. 1998 in 2008.

After several 7-inches and EPs (on Slumberland, Cloudberry and Atomic Beat Records) you’re ready to release your much anticipated debut album, on Slumberland and Fortuna POP! In the meantime New York has become the most hip place for music again. Do you sometimes daydream about how big you could be in a couple of months? Is that scary, exciting, or do you think it’s unlikely it’ll happen?

Kip: When we formed, if you told us we'd even get to put out a split 7" on Slumberland, we would have been disbelieving. I mean, so many of our favorite bands (Rocketship, Black Tambourine/Velocity Girl, The Aislers Set) have released their best work on that label - to be part of it in any way is a real dream come true.

In addition to the label's storied history, they're currently releasing a bunch of our favorite contemporary bands (Sexy Kids, Crystal Stilts, A Sunny Day in Glasgow, and maybe Pants Yell!). It's a great feeling to be part of all that.

As for New York being hip - perhaps it is, but I think we're pretty geeky. Still, it's a diverse place where MGMT, Grizzly Bear and Vampire Weekend can co-exist with a crop of bands like us who are into Black Tambourine, The Clean, The Pastels and TVPs. Thankfully there's more than a few other bands that really embrace a noisy, adventurous pop sound - Crystal Stilts, My Teenage Stride, caUSE co-MOTION, Knight School, The Beets and Vivian Girls. As simply a music fan, it's extra cool to be able to see all those bands on a pretty regular basis.

But there are great bands all over - from Moscow Olympics in the Philipines to A Sunny Day in Glasgow in Philadelphia to Days in Gothenburg. We're just lucky that people seem genuinely excited about the music coming out of Brooklyn/New York right now - but it's definitely not the only place that's worth paying attention to.

Peggy: Yeah, I was reading about the history of Creation Records and how The Pastels weren't really embraced in the beginning, they were kind of outcasts. Thinking about The Pastels now, it's hard to imagine that because I think they are the coolest band ever. I'm not saying our story is the same, but I wouldn't say we are a trendy band or anything. "We'll never be cool" is kind of our mantra. It is awesome that the growing popularity of Vivian Girls and Crystal Stilts means that people are discovering some really great bands from the 80's. Sort of like a few years ago when they reissued Orange Juice because Franz Ferdinand got big, now they're doing the same thing with The Shop Assistants. If it will ever be 'cool' to like that sort of music, then that's awesome. I think a lot of those C-86 bands are really accessible and actually kind of punk, and it doesn't even really make sense that it's music for awkward nerds, or why it's as obscure as it is. We are kind of at the right place at the right time at the moment, but everything is fleeting, and it's good not to take anything for granted.

Once you’re big stars, those pains of being pure at heart will become even more obvious of course. Is there any aspect of making music that disappoints or discourages you? How hard is it to be ambitious and pure at heart at the same time?

Kip: Well, I don't think any band that thinks Stephen Pastel is cooler than Lou Reed, or freaks out over Blueboy and Rocketship 7-inches will ever be 'big stars' - but it's cool if you think so. We are who we are - and if you ever met us, you'd realize we're pretty nerdy people that take pictures next to funny road signs and the only 'experimentation' we do on tour is with various chocolate bars and gummi candies.

Peggy: Maybe I get a little disappointed about being pigeonholed as being precious and cutesy. If you actually saw one of our live shows, or listened to the lyrics, you'd come to realize that we're pretty loud and actually kind of dark. It's also scary to think that once more than 10 people actually like your band, the criticism starts rolling in and people can be kinda mean. Maybe I'm just a little sensitive, but I've always had a hard time putting myself out there and having to face rejection.

But we've got a good situation going, so if that seems really sincere or cheesy or twee, then so be it. We're all actually friends and really really like each other and have fun. Going to band practice means hanging out and having awesome times. As far as staying 'pure at heart', I want to think we started the band for the right reasons, and that we'll remain true to that. I guess I'll draw the line if someone makes me wear a bikini in a music video.

How did you get into indiepop, or any kind of independent music? Do you remember what made you realise there was more out there than the music you heard in the charts?

Peggy: I had a very obsessive relationship with music, which is heightened by the emotional uproar of growing up. You just want something to relate to. Once I started discovering bands that I could really relate to, it made me want to learn guitar and start playing in bands. I didn't have any siblings (or friends really, ha) and my parents only listened to Chinese opera. But I remember watching 120 Minutes by myself for the first time and getting really excited. All the bands seemed so cool. The Sundays and Sonic Youth and The Sugarcubes. I just wanted to absorb it all. Anyway, maybe it all started with Sonic Youth. I made some pen pals through the fan club who made me mix tapes and introduced me to Polvo, Unwound, Tiger Trap and Kicking Giant. Also, there was an article about riot grrrls in Seventeen Magazine that I read when I was 12. I had an English teacher that was assigning me all this feminist literature to read, and the whole riot grrrl movement just really appealed to me. That's when I decided I wanted to be in a band. And start a fanzine. More alt stuff ensued. Oh yeah, another factor was discovering The Magnetic Fields from watching The Adventures of Pete and Pete. They became my favorite band in high school.

Kip: My friends and I in highschool would go to a lot of Punk and Hardcore shows. Plus, Nirvana always championed indie bands like The Vaselines and Beat Happening. I think Sonic Youth, Helium, Yo La Tengo, Papas Fritas and Pavement were bands that got me more into indie"rock" music.

As for indiepop, it was a combination of living in the Pacific Northwest (K Records, Magic Marker Records, Slumberland) that allowed me to get to know so many bands. All the 'rock' shows were for 21+, but being underage, I went to a lot of house shows and DIY shows and saw everything from Dear Nora, The Softies, The Lucksmiths to Mates of State and Urban Legends (pre-Thermals Hutch and Kathy). It was a great time for music, and to get to experience it all in such intimate, living room settings was a thrill.

We all know the story of how you formed the band in springtime 2007 to play at Peggy’s birthday party. After that things happened fast, which we’ve all been able to witness. But of course before that party there’s a little history as well. How did you know each other to begin with? Had you always wanted to be in a band? Have you been in other bands before?

Kip: Well, Alex and I worked together and would listen to Paint a Rainbow at least once every day around 5pm when we didn't feel like working anymore... Peggy and I met at an Indiepop Dance Party at Cake Shop. She was pretty cool, and I was scared to ask her to be in the band - as I thought she was 'too cool' and wouldn't want to do it.

We didn't have a drummer for a long time - just a drum machine. Kurt kept on coming to our shows and had a cool Blueboy and Sarah Records badge on his bag and eventually Peggy insisted I ask him to join on drums. Peggy is always right - ever since Kurt joined it's been just so much fun and the live shows are a lot better than seeing three people play along to a drum machine.

Peggy: I wouldn't say I am too cool, but yes, I AM always right! I don't think Kip and I bonded over music at first. Actually, I think we bonded over salad. And he introduced me to Titus Andronicus, an incredibly life-affirming band. I dunno, we just started hanging out - how typical friendships begin, I suppose. I was in another band for three years in NYC, and that band really meant a lot to me. My ex-bandmate Christian was an amazing songwriter, I still listen to our old demos to this day. But we could just never get our shit together to do anything. So being in the Pains is quite a different experience.

Your songs are overall very basic and simple, and instantly addictive. What do you think makes a perfect pop song? Now we’re there, does a song come to mind which you consider THE perfect pop song, if such a thing exists?

Kip: To me the perfect pop songs are the imperfect pop songs. I feel too many bands try to erase anything 'out of place' or write lyrics that are 'vaguely universal' - I appreciate bands that are themselves, that are unafraid to leave their personality in the song, or sing about things that maybe don't seem like traditional 'pop love' songs.

As for perfect pop songs, I can think of so many - but the one that always sticks out in my head is Nothing to be Done by The Pastels. I love the boy/girl vocals, and the lyrics are just amazing. The way Stephen sings is so cool - and it's like he's declaring sappy, undying love, but then Aggie sings, "What do you say we go and get a beer?" It's like, "hold on there, Stephen - let's take things one step at a time." It's a little out of place, because a cliche indiepop band would be all "let's go and have some tea" or "a picnic and poetry in the springtime would be a nice thing to do." But it feels so real and unaffected - the vocals are direct and conversational, like Calvin Johnson - but still really lovely. I guess that's an example of the perfect/imperfect pop song to me. But there are so many others, i feel bad picking just one.

Peggy: These are my picks, although I'm sure tomorrow I'll be kicking myself for forgetting some all-time favorite - Crimson and Clover by Tommy James and the Shondells. Different Drum by Linda Ronstadt. You Can Hide Your Love Forever by Comet Gain. Pail Frail Lovely One by Outrageous Cherry. And Tendency Right Foot Forward by Kleenex Girl Wonder.

You've shared a split single with Summer Cats (on Slumberland) and with The Parallelograms (on Atomic Beat Records), also two great bands that emerged this past year. Looking back, we can say it's been a brilliant year for pop! How do you find out about new music nowadays?

Kip: I think I rely a lot on my bandmates and friends - we're all big record nerds so if they like something, they tell me about it and vice versa. I always read Skatterbrain and Indie-MP3 a lot to find out about new bands I might enjoy. But there are so many fantastic blogs, like Heaven is Above Your Head, The Finest Kiss, and Alex Loves You and Your Silly Pop Songs that there's really no shortage of great sources to find out about new bands.

Plus, there's loads of new (printed) zines like Sapricot, Bottle Rocket, Iconoclastic Cardies and A Layer of Chips that seem to defy the notion that fanzines are limited to the internet. All in all, it's a great time for pop music, and the many diverse voices make it impossible not to get excited about all that's going on right now.

Peggy: I have a hard time keeping up with new bands. I'm always two years behind. Seriously, someone will play me a Strokes song next week and I'll be like "Oh, wow, this is good, what is this??" There's just such a sheer plethora of bands these days that I assume I'm not going to like something because I'm kinda picky. It's not like in the 90's when you'd discover an indie label and want to buy everything on that label because it was all of the same aesthetic. There are the aforementioned blogs that I do pay attention to, and yeah, just friends whose taste I trust. It's so weird because now that I've lived in NYC for a while, I've actually made friends who have really similar music taste to me. Never had that growing up. It's amazing. But now I don't ever want to leave that bubble!

As happy as your music makes a lot of people, some of your lyrics are quite grim. Is it important to you that people pay attention? Do you listen to what other bands have to say, or is it mainly about the music? Do you have a favourite lyricist?

Kip: To me, lyrics are so essential - I find myself listening closely to lyrics, and whether it's Hefner, Titus Andronicus, Pulp or My Favorite, the music that I love the most, usually has a strong emphasis on lyrics - and maybe they are a bit more ridiculous than 'tasteful' or 'restrained' - I like songs that are unafraid to say something special, even if it seems weird or a bit out of place in a pop song.

Peggy: The lyrics make or break a band for me. I have to relate to them, OR ELSE. I don't care how catchy a song is, but if it's about architecture or something, I'm not going to listen to it. A band whose lyrics I love is the Russian Futurists. Go to their website and read all of their lyrics! I love them. I also love Hefner's lyrics, and Orange Juice, and My Bloody Valentine, and The Pastels and The Magnetic Fields, and The Aislers Set and Comet Gain. Thankfully with all of these bands, the music is quite enjoyable as well.

You recently played some shows in the UK with The Wedding Present. Were those the biggest crowds you’ve played for so far? Did you get to know The Wedding Present a little bit? Are you fans?

Kip: Yeah, playing with The Wedding Present was such a thrill, as they're one the most legendary indiepop bands. Aside from the excitement of getting to play these larger venues, their fans were super nice to us. They have people coming to their shows that have been following them since the mid-80's. It's really touching to see that level of dedication. Also, the band treated us really nicely. Terry (bass) was especially nice, and so was David.

Peggy: It's weird to play on a high stage that is like, 3 times bigger than my apartment. Getting to play with The Wedding Present was an honor, and they are all such pleasant people to hang around. No egos, or rock star antics or anything. And definitely no debauchery! I can't imagine what it would be like to tour with a band that was strung out and had tons of groupies hanging around all the time. It was good clean fun.

2009 has been designated as the International Year of Astronomy. What do you see in the stars for The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart?

Kip: Maybe some more mosh pits?

Peggy: Lots of adventures! And a vicious betrayal. And maybe a murder... in a library...

Thanks Peggy and Kip, have a wonderful 2009!

The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart website
The Pains Of Being Pure At Heart myspace
Fortune POP!
Slumberland Records
Cloudberry Rercords
Atomic Beat Records

Download (Mediafire)
1. Come Saturday
2. Kurt Cobain's cardigan
3. Everything with you

January 01, 2009

The Monolators

Los Angeles quartet The Monolators blend 50's rock and 70's punk, with vocals resembling a mix of Jonathan Richman and Will Sheff. The drums stomp, the hands clap and the melodies tickle. For these and more reasons Don't dance, the name of their recently released third full length, is impossible advice.

Happy New Year everyone!

Buy Don't dance
The Monolators website
The Monolators myspace

Download (Mediafire)
1. The Monolators - I must be dreaming
2. The Monolators - I heard her calling from another room